Northern English Workingmen’s Clubs

DUC-US-UK-505 Northern English Workingmen’s Clubs entertainment content
North Staffordshire Potteries: Kidsgrove Workingmen’s Club

Despite the educational ambitions, most working men’s clubs are recreational. Typically, a club would have a room, often referred to (especially in Northern England) as a vault with a bar for the sale and consumption of alcohol, snookerpool or bar billiards tables, as well as televisions for sport entertainment; many provide food. A much larger room would be connected, often called the concert or entertainment room with a stage and a layout of tables, stools and backrest sofas. They often provide night time entertainment, mainly on the weekends such as bingoraffles, live music cabaret and comedy, playing popular music. They are also known for their charitable works.

DUC-US-UK-505 Northern English Workingmen’s Clubs entertainment content
North Staffordshire Potteries:Workingmen’s Club

In recent years, declining membership has seen many clubs close down and others struggle to remain open. Some groups try to raise the profile of clubs, pointing to their historical legacies and their community roles.
A working men’s club is a non-profit organisation run by members through a committee, usually elected annually. Each club has rules that tend to be vigorously enforced. The committee will discipline members (common punishments being a warning, or a ban for a period) for violations. Despite the name, women are allowed to be members in many clubs, and virtually all clubs allow entry to women. Non-members are not allowed entry unless signed in by a member.

North Staffordshire Potteries Workingmen’s Clubs
Bill Cawley: “Peter Kay is not far out when portrays the strange acts at the Phoenix. I recall vividly the Pakistani stand up comedian who told racist jokes against himself, the asthmatic country and western act from Cleverley who stopped for breath half way through his act.” I’ll be with you in a moment “, or the overloud ear-ringing rock bands. Sometimes there were special events like a boxing tournament at the Suburban where one competitor eschewing the basic defensive stance advanced with arms flaying like a windmill to be quickly demolished by punishing jabs that opened his nose up in a crimson torrent. For the turns themselves there was recognition that there efforts were taken with proper regard. As local act Gerry Stephens writing of the time reportedSaturday was the highlight of the week and people would make an effort to look their best. The Committee officers ran them with a grip of iron and membership were as tightly controlled as any freemasons. Instant silence followed the command ” Give order please” and quiet was demanded- and got- when Bingo started. Bingo was a ritual with its language and actions especially when certain numbers were called out ” Ted’s den- Number Ten, Two fat ladies 88, Leg’s eleven” followed by wolf whistles and the clinking of glasses as pens were banging against them. Sometimes a frustrated gamester would call out to the elderly lady caller ” Shake them up, Elsie” if his numbers were not coming up.Then there were the turns.“You’d arrive outside the Club, grab your gear, and go in. The room would be completely empty. Then people start coming in; the room is packed, and it’s your job to entertain them for the night. You’ve only got your guitar, your voice and your patter, to get them going, gets them laughing.It was quite a thing to be an artist in the 70s, there was a lot of respect shown; the audience wasn’t allowed to come in or go out during a bracket”.But the knell- as it was for the working class- was already tolling for the clubs.”

 

Bill Cawley: “I was born in Stoke in 1955 and lived and worked in the City. I was a City Councillor from 82-7 and a County Councillor from 97-05. I’m a member of the Green party My heroes are Thomas Paine, HL Mencken, Tom Joad and Ernest Everard..,”

Talke’s, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Staffordshire: Talke Social Club mid-1980’s & early ’90’s:
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Softened, almost into melody

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The Longest Night of Waiting
This which is written here below is ‘The Winds of Change..’
From It’s Broken English Garden,
A Stoned Rose Departs,
From Beneath Lyme Woods Willow Tree,
To A New Abode,
When Once There,
At Twilight Writes.
Then Hears This,
In The Near Distance,
Softened, almost into melody.
A Freckled Song Thrush Song Bird Sing,
It’s Erie Evening Song.

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Circa: Sunday July, 8th. @7.17 a.m. MMXIIX
Location: Newcastle – under – Lyme North Staffordshire in Northwest England, U.K.